…Middle school and high school were periods of time during which- right, wrong, good, bad, ugly or indifferent everything, according to everyone in that awkward age group, was shameful and the definition of what was good or bad (or cool) became blurred and not so clear anymore.
It was a time when you were too weird, too straight-laced, too smart, or not smart enough. You were either an evil monster or a goodie-two-shoes, too stoic or too sensitive! Your nose was too crooked, too long, or too short. Your skin was either too clear, too blotchy, too pale, or not pale enough. Your hair was either too long, short, straight, or curly. You were either too skinny or too fat. Your clothes were either overly flashy or much too drab.
Charlotte would often think, “Lord! Can everyone just make up their minds, for crying out loud?” It was all so confusing!
There were things about Charlotte her peers could not wait to nitpick, things which were either beyond her control, chosen at random or completely fabricated. And she wondered why all this trivial crap even mattered.
The world had suddenly become one big and twisted soap opera. And it was obvious whom the biggest stars of this proverbial daytime drama were.
They were the best actors- the best liars and fakers!
Charlotte noticed that anytime she heard a member of the in-crowd tell a bad joke, the rest of the class would only laugh that fake laugh people always used whenever the corny joke was told by someone whose ass they wanted to kiss.
What those suck-ups never realized was that they only degraded themselves by replacing their true laugh with one that was counterfeit. Charlotte could only imagine how furious the so-called cool kids would be if they only knew the rest of the class were only patronizing them.
It was all akin to playing a card game with an opponent and ‘letting them win’- just another form of deception.
All that kindness and consideration shown to the so-called top dogs was only for purposes of vanity and due to their high positions in the school social hierarchy. The rest of the student body most certainly did not like them for them and most of those who were not in the in-crowd were wise enough to see it.
All this drove Charlotte nuts! At times, she would wonder, “How in the blue blazes am I the one who was always in the wrong?”
It was a system that was one big freak show and one Charlotte had no desire to be a part of. Sadly, this attitude would be to her detriment. She learned the hard way that if you want to get along in this thing- this maze called Life, you had to play along!
The thought of it was enough to make her shudder. No way did Charlotte want to be patronized or pacified! She detested liars and fakes and preferred to be told the truth. This kind of fakery was an insult to the recipient!
These were Charlotte’s thoughts:
“If you want a reaction out of me, then you damn well better deserve it!”
When she would hear some moron tell a corny joke, Charlotte would only roll her eyes instead of laughing and as a result, everyone else would take her silence and lack of interest as a direct insult and escalate the harassment.
Charlotte had nothing to say to any of them. Every day, she would pass them in the halls and look right through them instead of at them. Naturally, this was an even bigger insult because it seemed they expected her to bow-down and lick their boots like most of the other kids did.
And many of her classmates did believe they were better than Charlotte and that she owed them complete homage and submission to their will and every whim.
They saw themselves as an authority over her- higher than her and how dare she not acknowledge their superiority! Kids who were considered on the lower end endured those proverbial gut punches every single day!
With every misstep she took, Charlotte would feel the flaming hot coals of ridicule scorch the soles of her feet!
But as painful as it was, she would much rather have resisted her bullies rather than acknowledged them, much less make any effort to appease them or worse, seek their approval. Charlotte was way past crawling up behind anyone and she already knew where it would get her.
In the past, it had always seemed that the harder Charlotte tried not to be a target- the more effort she put into being “normal”, the worse she would fail. She was either being fake or being arrogant and uppity, and only certain kids could be uppity and get away with it.
At Beulah High School, you either knew your place or you were put in it. If you were on the lower ranks, daring to show any confidence or backbone could be dangerous. Because if you weren’t good enough, those in the upper echelons of the social order expected, even demanded that you kept your head down.
The bottom of the stack was like a raging torrent and the harder Charlotte struggled to reach the surface and get her head above water, the stronger the current, and the deeper it seemed to suck her down.
Therefore, Charlotte had long given up on trying to be like any of them because it was too much work and she had no time for it. She’d be damned if she was going to lie to herself just to win their approval! Forget that noise! She was through with false impressions! She just could not bring herself to do it.
Why? Because all of it was only wasted time, effort, and energy. If you were on the bottom floor, the reality was that the harder you tried to make friends, the harder and further people pushed you away. You were too desperate, too clingy, or too oblivious to how negatively you came across to people and the worst part was that there was no way to fix any of it without knowing what was broken.
And they would never tell her what it was because they didn’t know either. All they knew was that they hated her and couldn’t wait to pick her apart piece by piece.